Make Your Halloween a Green One

This piece originally appeared in my Green and Simple column on the Old Town Alexandria Patch.  

Although Halloween is less than two weeks away, it is not too late to green your Halloween. Here are a few tips and resources for Eco-friendly fall fun.


When I was a kid, our family always made Halloween costumes from scratch. It is a tradition that we have carried on with our own kids. The conversations start months in advance and the selection changes almost weekly. This year, because of too many late costume choice changes, I added a lock-in date after which costume selection cannot be changed. We generally use materials we already have at home and make things up as we go along.

Last year, the theme was the Wizard of Oz. This year, it is Harry Potter. In the past, we have made witches hats out of pizza boxes, cat ears out of bathroom tissue rolls, and a skeleton out of a black shirt, leggings and a good stretch of masking tape. Each year I am amazed at what we are able to pull together using mostly random things we already have at home.


  • Nature – Decorate for the season instead of the holiday.
    From acorns to hay bales to pressed leaves, the change in seasons provides an abundance of materials one can use to create a festive atmosphere, without much expense!  And, by decorating for the fall season, your decorations having a longer life: put them well before Halloween and leave them on display until it is time for winter decorations.
  • Recycle – Use materials you already have to add Halloween accents.
    The plastic bags in which newspapers are delivered make great tree ghosts when stuffed with a little shredded paper or other bags and are tied and hung from a tree branch. Add some paint and pipe cleaners to egg cartons and you have got captivating creepy crawly critters. Libraries have a great selection of books with Halloween craft ideas for kids. You can also find many ideas online.


If you hand out treats on Halloween, you have lot of options. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market all offer more healthful sweet treats kids are sure to love. But, treats do not have to be the kind you eat. Your kids might not be thrilled, but festive pencils, stickers, tatoos and crayons all make great treats. Green Halloween has a lengthy list of alternatives to candy.


From fall festivals to the National Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo, there are so many ways to celebrate Halloween and the change of seasons. Fall is a great time to visit a nature center, farm, or national park. The following are a just a few fun events happening in the next couple of weeks that offer a great opportunity to connect with nature in fun and educational ways:


Once the trick-or-treating has been done, what is one to do with all the loot? The Switch Witch has been visiting our house for years. The kids select roughly 20 sweets to keep and leave the rest in their trick-or-treat bags outside their bedroom doors. The Switch Witch comes during the night and swaps the loot for a small gift, such as a book, doll, pair of slippers.

One can also donate leftover and excess Halloween candy to our troops. Check with your local schools, scout troops or church after Halloween to see how you can share your stash.

The life of a costume does not have to end on Halloween. Costumes are great for dress-up and imaginative play. If appropriate, consider donating costumes to a local pre-school for their dress-up bin; offer up on Freecycle, or save for a costume swap next fall.

Greening your Halloween can feel overwhelming. Start with one area, such as treats, decorations or customes, and then select a new area on which to concentrate each year. However you choose to do it, be sure to make it fun!

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